Undercover Video: The Barbaric World of Horse Soring

Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 4:00pm

Guest blog post from Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations.

"Every walking horse that enters into a show is sored. They've got to be sored to walk. There ain't no good way to put it, but that's how it is.”

These were the words of Barney Davis at his sentencing hearing in a Chattanooga, Tennessee, federal court on February 27 after being found guilty of soring horses. Last night our friends at the Humane Society of the United States released horrific undercover footage showing horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face, burned with caustic chemicals, and violently cracked across the head and legs with heavy wooden sticks. These are just a few of the barbaric training methods used in the walking horse industry.

What Is Soring?
Soring is a training technique that is even worse than it sounds. Painful chemicals and other devices are used to cause such agony to a horse’s front limbs that any contact with the ground makes the horse quickly jerk up his or her leg. Soring is done to elicit “the big lick,” a high-stepping gait prized and rewarded at horse shows. And it gets worse. To hide their cruelty, trainers also do what they euphemistically call “stewarding”—beating and inflicting even greater pain to the horses so they don’t react poorly during inspection.  This brutality, as captured in HSUS’ footage, masks the fact that trainers are soring the animals. It sounds impossible that this practice continues, even when showing sore horses is banned by the Horse Protection Act (HPA).  This practice is violent and abusive—and we will not tolerate it.

What Is the USDA Doing about It?
Last year, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors had the resources to attend just 62 of approximately 700 walking horse shows nationwide. In addition, although the USDA promised in March to release rules that would take an important step toward enforcing the ban of these unethical and cruel practices, they have failed to do so.

While the USDA drags its feet, the 2012 walking horse season is well under way. It’s time to finally take the power out of the hands of criminals! Contact your legislators today and urge them to speak out against soring and demand improvements to the 40-year-old Horse Protection Act.

Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to use your voice to help these under-protected animals.

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Can the ASPCA please tell us what kind of events we can protest to stop this behavior? Is it ALL horse shoes or just specific ones? Obviously, I never ride the horse drawn carriages that you see in certain cities. PLEASE TELL US!


Seriously? How can you live with yourself when you're abusing an animal just so they look good... Maybe we should beat them and hurt them like they do to the horses and make a walking show of them... I hate people.. Horses are beautiful and graceful creatures, and they don't deserve to have that beauty marred by the likes of someone who just wants their animal to look good.

Greta Frusha

I never knew this was what it took to train the horse to the high stepping gait that they are famous for. There are trainers out there, I hope, that can elicit the effect without the horrific training methods? For that matter, why can the Tennessee Walker be appreciated for what they do naturally?


There definitely are. It sickens me that the old methods are still used.

Patricia Mendez

I'm ashamed, it's disgusting and this needs to STOP inmediatly.

Joyce Brodsky

And this for a cheap blue ribbon? Why not go after the owners of these abused animals? And how can we help stop this cruelty other than not going to any of these barbaric displays. I saw this on tv last night and I was sickened by this horrible practice - they've done this to jumpers and probably to all horses in competition. Shame on all of you.

Jean Foreman

What a cruel and horrible thing to do to these beautiful animals, this has to be stopped. These people should never be allowed to handle horses again.


This is why we need to band circus's and anything that involves entertainment with animals. I am just sick to my stomach that people can actually sleep at night after such cruelty is done to animals. Just sick!!!


So, they train these horses to walk in an unnatural way and torture them to achieve this. Barbarians. I cannot believe that this is happening in the US. Okay, I can but why does it continue? Animals suffer so much at our hands. We are beasts.Damn these people and lets do it to them.

Kim Reaser

I am so totally sick of seeing how people treat animals, especially for entertainment and profit. I voice my disgust to people every chance I get, no circuses, no road side animal displays, no horse racing, no dog racing, no Seaworld...I could go on. People need to be ashamed when they support these things. Who in their right mind would think a horse walks that way naturally or from some sort of horse whispering!